As a business owner, the thought of tearing up the leases on my company’s office spaces – and the hefty price tags that come with them – should fill me with joy. I should be quietly celebrating the mounting evidence that my team actually prefers working from home. Right? Right?
Or rather: don’t get me wrong. I get it. I really do. For those with the space, the (right!) company, the temperament, and the means to work from home; it can work. And it can work well.
We can save money on petrol and public transport. We can replace our commute with exercise, healthy cooking, and more time with our families. We can even hang up that load of laundry in our lunch break.
Maybe in a perfect world. For me, at least – and for many others – these well-laid plans went out the window around QW2 (Quarantine Week 2), and stayed there. The loneliness and feelings of isolation crept in early for me. It affected my mood, and it affected my work.
But what if there was a version of the modern office that catered for both camps? What if more businesses had a shared approach to office space? Could our business work in tandem with, say, four others of a similar size, each of us working from a reimagined ‘collaboration’ space one day a week, with staff working the other four days from home? Would it work?
As a TMC with dedicated corporate, leisure and events divisions, there are a myriad of considerations for us as we approach the idea of employees working from home. What works for our leisure consultants might not work for their clients. What works for our corporate staff might not work for management. And the decisions we make won’t only affect our staff. What would a WFH model mean for our partners and suppliers; and so for our consultants’ product knowledge? What would it mean for our clients’ privacy?
Thankfully, we’re not the first business to be weighing these pros and cons. In fact, one of the most comprehensive and revealing studies about the Working From Home movement was conducted over two years by Stanford University, using one of the world’s largest travel agencies as its subject! (Check out the Ted talk here. It’s well worth a watch.)
The results were definitive. Over a 9-month period, its principal professor, Nicholas Bloom, found employees working from home showed a 13% improvement in overall performance. In fact, by the end of the experiment performance improvement was up by a whopping 24%; not because the employees got better at working from home, but because they were given a choice about whether they wanted to do it. The ones it worked for stayed home, the ones who hated it returned to the office. So, it turns out it’s not rocket science after all: empower your employees, and they’ll power your business.
It’s still a hard one to grapple with for me. We’ve spent the better part of 10 years at Platinum investing in and refining our efforts to create a supportive, dynamic work environment for our staff. We moved our Melbourne Headquarters to expansive new digs in 2018 at great expense, which by all accounts was a positive and meaningful change for our staff. It hurts to think the most valuable thing we might have offered them was... well, none of it at all.
On the plus side, though, the Working From Home movement firmly supports one of our other core values: reducing our impact on the environment. And, with the reduced cost of rent, we could afford to invest more in staff training, team building, social events and professional development; all of which we place enormous value on. It’s also a proven combination when it comes to employee satisfaction and staff retention. (The Stanford study suggested that giving employees the option to WFH lead to a greater than 50% improvement in staff retention, in fact: something any business owner would be hard placed to ignore.)
For my staff, WFH also means not having their boss hanging over their desk all day (although I like to think of it as hanging out, rather than over… Michael Scott, anyone!?), and I guess only time will tell whether we can expect the same level of autonomy and accountability from our team at home.
The long and short of it? Working from home isn’t for everyone. I’m not sure it’s for me. But if you’re in the business of running a profitable business and hiring (and holding onto) the best staff, then you better be ready to have the conversation. Let’s start it here.
This article was written by Platinum Director, Andrew Buerckner
, and was originally published on LinkedIn here.